Adam, Chris, and Jamie came over for a play test of Tilly’s Very Bad Day. It was a good quick game, with considerable spectacle. There were lots of troops, and, yay. I’ve finally got my Thirty Years War forces on table. Although it was a reasonable game, we did come up with quite a long list of observations, suggestions, and tweaks to the rules. By the way, the Swedes beat the Imperialists.
Version of Tilly’s Very Bad Day
Tilly’s Very Bad Day is available for Download (PDF) and currently at Version 1.1. However, we were play testing a pre-production version. This game was pivotal and resulted in many changes to the rules that made their way into the published version
The draft rules recommended a 4′ x 3′ table. So we expanded this out to a 4′ x 4′ table because, well, that is what it was. But I was nervous given the size of the armies. It seemed a small table. In fact the players were also nervous about troop density. None-the-less we went with 4’x 4′ as a play test.
Both sides had 25 units divided into four commands: left, centre, right, and reserve.
The photo above shows our measuring sticks; rods with alternating brass an aluminium segments 40mm long (1 TUM). They are visible here because we used them to delineate the neutral zone (8 TUM) and player deployment zones. Hence the kind of “H” shape in the middle. We removed them once the game began.
Jamie and I were the Imperialists. I took the left cavalry wing and the cavalry reserve. He had the infantry centre and the mixed infantry and cavalry right wing.
I had both cuirassier and harquebusier units but in the basic rules there is no difference.
Chris and Adam played the Swedes. They matched our deployment, but had more cavalry on the cavalry wing and less troops to dispute the rough ground.
Both sides had put masses of cavalry on the open flank. And the cavalry of both sides was deployed in two lines.
The Swedes had a lot of cavalry on their right wing. Nine units of horse with more in the nearby reserve.
I had less horse on the open wing.
The Swedish centre was infantry but, unusually for the period, the pike+shot units were deployed in line rather than chequerboard.
Tilly’s Very Bad Day plays fast. Of course the neutral zone between the armies is 8 TUM (4 base widths) and movement rates (6 TUM for cavalry and 3 TUM for infantry) mean troops travel across it fast. Particularly if both sides are moving. Cavalry can and did charge on turn 1. Infantry took a bit longer.
The first casualty was the unit of cannons from the Imperialist left wing. They scored a hit on the charging Swedes but were automatically routed on contact.
The front lines of the two cavalry forces crunched together on turn 1. The Swedes had four units to my three. Both sides had a general in the front rank.
Chris accused me of inventing a “bucket of dice game”. From my perspective, of course, this isn’t true. There are no more dice than Crossfire uses i.e. 2d6, 3d6 or 4d6 being common. Anyway, this came up because the Swedes threw well, on four dice, and routed an Imperialist unit of horse.
The contest wasn’t one sided, however, and more horse units routed on both sides.
The interesting moment was when the Swedish right wing cavalry general died in melee.
We applied the morale collapse immediately. Every surviving unit in the command with the dead general lost one resolve. We quite liked the game effect however Adam suggested this should happen at the end of melee, not during.
Even with the initial loses this was a big old cavalry battle. By this stage Adam was suggesting the battle should be quicker. The initial winner should win. I wasn’t convinced. I believe cavalry battles were more fluid and covered more ground, and even units going backwards and forwards. So for me the problem was that the current struggle look like an infantry fight.
As the cavalry battle raged the Imperialist infantry got within musket range. I allow units to shoot to the side and this is particularly apt for pike+shot units with sleeves of shot.
The next rout was Swedish.
And the next few …
With their right wing cavalry in distress, the Swedes sent in their reserves.
And still the infantry hadn’t reached each other.
An Imperialist Harquebusier unit (horse of the shooty variety) routed.
And just to prove my regular opponents actually exist …
Another Swedish horse unit routed.
And an Imperialist …
Finally the foot came into contact. But it already felt like the end of the battle.
The Swedes managed to kill the Imperialist infantry general in the centre in melee.
The last fight of the game was in the rough ground. This was meant as a side show but ended up deciding the battle. The Swedish shot out an Imperialist unit and took the battle.
And that was the end of the game.
Observations and conclusions
We liked quite a lot about the game:
- the game and would play it again
- the fast play
- the look
- resolve as a concept
- resolve as the single attribute used in a variety of contexts (melee, shooting, command check)
- Sequence of play with Attacker move, Defender shoot, defender move, attacker shoot. At least Jamie liked it.
But, being a fairly draft set of rules, were were a lot of less positive observations and many, many suggestions.
- Less “chrome”. Jamie thought the draft of the rules he had read 4 days earlier was clean and elegant. But by the time we played the rules included “chrome”, which I took to mean unnecessary bits. I said I’d review but soooo hard to cut anything. (And, in truth, I completely failed to do this.)
Suggestions for game set up:
- Bigger table: With 26 units a side on a 4’ x 4’ table (30 TUM x 30 TUM), the battle was tight. Wall to wall troops. Visually it would have looked better on a 6’x4’ table (45 TUM x 30 TUM) with flank empty but open to on table flank marches.
- Deployment: (1) Alternating commands starting with defender (excluding cannons) followed by, after all others, (2) alternating Cannons starting with defender
Suggestions for movement:
- Need rules to cover what to do with commanders who get in the way e.g. move them out of the way
- Need rules to cover what to do when a unit is already within 1 TUM of enemy. We ruled that such a unit cannot go closer. Suggest measure “closest distance” (the distance to the closest enemy at the time), then can move in the normal way except at the end of movement no enemy unit can be closer than the previously measured “closest distance”.
- Somehow get the infantry into contact faster. In our game the wings fought to resolution but the infantry didn’t really contact before it was game over.
- Clarify interpenetration, even if none
- What about a zone of control (ZOC) to prevent units wandering across the front of enemy?
Suggestions for shoot
- Leave cannons ineffective. Jamie found cannon to be ineffective in the play test. Which was true. Adam and I both thought this was pretty realistic for the period. It took sustained bombardment for cannon of the period to have an impact. In our game they only got to shoot a couple of times.
- Give infantry in chequerboard an advantage over infantry in line. At the moment the line get the numbers shooting advantage. Historically infantry commands did not form line, but had big gaps and second lines filling the gaps. There has to be game advantage for this. Hmmm.
Suggestions for charge:
- Clarity on who can charge who when e.g. Attacker charges to contact a unit and from their final position they are in charge reach of a defender unit; can the defender charge? Answer = No. Might introduce charge declarations before charge moves
- React to greatest threat, meaning closest to straight ahead. This is any enemy to front and the closest of those. If there are no enemy to front then the enemy which requires the smallest wheel and straight ahead move to reach.
- Reduce the total move (currently move + charge).
- Either do away with charge and charges happen in move
- Or reduce charge distance to 3 TUM, which I had in an earlier draft. The implication is that you have to be inside musket range to be able to charge. At the moment you can charge from outside musket range.
Suggestions for melee
- Make commanders harder to kill e.g. rather than re-roll hits, just roll 1d6 regardless of hits. Casualty on a 6 or 5-6 depending on whether the attached unit routed.
- Make infantry more resilient compared to cavalry. Currently both are resolve 3. Suggest pike+shot start with resolve 4.
- Clarify who chooses order of melee. Our Attacker C-in-C assumed this privilege but that seemed lop sided. (I’m considering giving choice to the side who has most units charging this turn)
- do something about the ebb and flow of cavalry battles. The specific grievance was our big cavalry battle was reminiscent of an stodgy infantry battle with a lot of blood on both sides. Consider
- melee winner loses less resolve; I’m less keen about this because separately we have a suggestion to regain resolve when routing enemy, which I think is a cleaner mechanism);
- cavalry fall back and can interpenetrate other cavalry, assuming the wheel to the side is happening at a lower level; I prefer this one, it also hints at a way to handle caracole
Suggestions for resolve:
- Clarify when combat effects happen e.g. immediately hence can affect subsequent combats or later. In particular commander casualty
- Rally lost resolve. Two mechanisms: (1) general rally one resolve from an attached unit each turn; and (2) recover a lost resolve from one unit involved in routing an enemy unit. I really, really like these suggestions. Make more resolve more of a thing and addresses important morale considerations in a super simple fashion.